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Zimbabwe: ICRC distributes food to thousands of detainees

05-06-2009 News Release 09/115

Geneva/Harare (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has started distributing food to 6,300 detainees.

It continues to assess needs in prisons and stands ready to assist where required. Working with the Zimbabwean authorities, the ICRC has also set up therapeutic feeding programmes and begun improving cooking facilities and water supply systems inside prisons.

" Food shortages in Zimbabwe are closely linked to the general economic crisis in the country, " said Thomas Merkelbach, head of the ICRC's regional delegation in Harare. " We are working closely with the prison authorities to improve the situation for the most vulnerable detainees. "

Once the food situation has stabilized, the ICRC will continue to assess the overall conditions of detention. In cooperation with the authorities, it will refurbish kitchen and sanitation facilities, and upgrade water supply systems. It will work to prevent transmission of communicable disease and make sure that detainees receive the treatment they require in event of any outbreak of disease such as cholera. The ICRC has given 5,000 detainees blankets and soap, and will continue to provide these items. It will also provide clothing and cooking utensils for detainees. The ICRC will work with the authorities to ensure that improvements achieved in the food situation inside prisons are maintained.

The ICRC is also stepping up its support for other needy communities, such as those affected by violence in 2008 in connection with the elections. In the provinces of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East, north-east of the capital Harare, more than 63,000 people living in extreme poverty, including returnees, will be given agricultural inputs and training to enable them to improve their harvests.

The ICRC will also provide health-care facilities with more support. In particular, it will provide transport allowances for medical staff and supply four polyclinics in Harare in addition to the eight clinics already receiving support.

The ICRC is asking donors for an extra 6.5 million Swiss francs to finance these activities. The budget extension brings the total 2009 budget for the ICRC's regional delegation in Harare to almost 19.5 million Swiss francs (over 18 million US dollars, or almost 13 million euros). In addition to carrying out assistance programmes, the delegation supports the activities of the region's National Red Cross Societies. There are currently 100 ICRC staff based in Harare, including more than 20 expatriates.

For further information, please contact:
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 17 or +41 22 730 22 71
  Askar Umarbekov, ICRC Harare, tel: +2634 790 268 or +2634 91 25 65 329